Newswise — Among the most selective academic grants, Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded each year to individuals who demonstrate significant achievements in scholarship or exceptional work in the arts—and two of this year’s recipients are Temple’s own Jeremy Schipper and Mark Franko. 

Religion Professor Jeremy Schipper, of the College of Liberal Arts, was awarded a fellowship to study the biblical interpretation of slavery surrounding the controversial 19th-century trial of Denmark Vesey, a 19th-century slave turned free man. Laura H. Carnell Professor of Dance Mark Franko, of the Boyer College of Music and Dance, won his fellowship to study French dance and politics in the first half of the 20th century.  

A look at biblical interpretations

While working on the book Black Samson: The Untold Story of an American Icon with Religion Assistant Professor Nyasha Junior, Schipper was encouraged by Oxford University Press to further pursue the story of Denmark Vesey.

In South Carolina in 1822, Vesey was tried for plotting what would have been the largest slave insurrection in U.S. history. During the trial, he invoked passages from the Bible to defend his attempt at rebellion, including those related to the Israelites’ liberation from their Egyptian slave masters. 

He also cited Exodus 21:16, which reads, “he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.” Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t well received by slave-owning members of the court who claimed he misinterpreted the Bible. 

The historical event not only inspired Schipper’s research in biblical interpretation but also exemplifies how he teaches. 

“This is a great example how the Bible is used and how a particular historical moment and cultural context can interpret the Bible differently,” Schipper said. “But it also gives students a chance to sort of reflect on what their own presuppositions are when they read the Bible.”

Schipper credits both the Religion Department and the College of Liberal Arts with encouraging ambitious projects such as this.

Politics of dance 

Franko’s Guggenheim Fellow project, Serge Lifar and the Crisis of Neoclassicism, will explore French dance and politics in the first half of the 20th century, including interwar discourses of classicism and neoclassicism in French dance from 1918 through the 1940s. 

“It allows me the opportunity to continue research and complete this book project that I’ve been working on for several years,” Franko said. “This research will also spotlight dance studies as an academic discipline within the arts and humanities.”

The Guggenheim Fellowship will support travel to archives in France and Germany, including the Opéra de Paris, Centre National de la Danse Paris and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. 

Franko currently serves as interim chair of Dance, teaches doctoral seminars in dance research from early modern to contemporary and curates the Dance Studies Colloquium Series at Boyer. He has worked and trained in France with some of the people he wrote about in his first book, Dance as Text, which examines French dance in the Baroque era.


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